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Charlie Francis with Jeff Coplon

Toronto, Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1990. 306pp, cloth, $24.95
ISBN 0-88619-345-1. Distributed by Key Porter Books. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by Charles Ottosen.

Volume 19 Number 3
1991 May

If anyone should know what hap­pened to Ben Johnson during the 1988 Seoul Olympics Charlie Francis should. As Ben's coach from the late 1970s until the nightmare at Seoul, Charlie Francis examined and dealt with every aspect of Ben's running career in order to make Ben the fastest man on earth. And playing within the unwritten inside rules of international track and field, he succeeded. Yet the establishment turned on him and Ben Johnson. Why? Charlie Francis only partially answers this question in his book.

This book, however, is about more than Ben Johnson's Olympic scandal. Using the vehicle of his own career as both a sprinter (who ran in the 1972 Munich Olympics) and a coach, Francis describes track and field competition in Canada and at the international level.

It is not a pretty picture. It is, in fact, a stinging indictment of everything from coaching methods to the Canadian government's approach to its athletes to the hypocrisy of the international athletic establishment. Most of what he says, of course, is not really new (everyone knew, for example, that the East Germans had a government-supported doping plan that gave their athletes an advantage).

It is important that more insiders speak out about these problems, as that puts more pressure on the establishment to change. However, the insiders will continue to discuss these issues at their own risk, as the IOC and government bureaucracies continue their efforts to repress the truth about drugs in sports (and promote their own prestige and status at the same time).

What happened to Ben Johnson? While admitting to steroid use, Ben Johnson tested positive to a drug that Charlie Francis had never authorized or thought Ben had ever taken. Francis offers a host of theories on why Ben tested positive. It will be up to the reader (and history) to determine which (if any) theory is correct.

Recommended for all high school and public libraries.

Charles Ottosen, Airdrie Public Library, Airdrie, Alta.
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